CDH Investments Fund Management Co is working with the management of shoe retailer Belle International Holdings Ltd on a buyout that could be the largest-ever such deal for a Hong Kong-listed consumer company, sources said on Wednesday.
They said an announcement could come as early as this week. Shares of Belle, mainland's biggest women's footwear retailer, were halted on Tuesday pending an announcement related to HK's takeovers and mergers code, the company said.
Belle, which sells shoes under brands such as Teenmix, Millie's and Mirabell, had a market value of $5.7 billion before the stock suspension. A deal of that size would be the biggest-ever buyout of a consumer company listed in the city, according to data compiled by news agency Bloomberg.
The shoe company, which operates more than 20,000 retail outlets mostly in the Chinese mainland, has struggled in recent years as shoppers turned to e-commerce for the affordable fashion footwear it sells. China's $55 billion fragmented footwear market is dominated by sports apparel brands, with Belle the only retailer among the top five that sells mostly fashion shoes.
"They don't have a strong brand and consumers are not willing to pay a premium without a strong brand since they have online options," said Chelsey Tam, an analyst at Morningstar Investment Services in Hong Kong.
"While the sportswear market is growing and they have distribution deals with the major sportswear brands, margins are low in that business," Tam added.
The Shenzhen-based firm's stock has risen about 21 percent this year, although the last closing price of HK$5.27 (64 cents) is 15 percent lower than its 2007 IPO. A representative for Belle declined to comment, while a representative for CDH didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.